File History regularly backs up versions of your files in the Documents, Music, Pictures, Videos, and Desktop folders and the OneDrive files available offline on your PC. Over time, you'll have a complete history of your files. If the originals are lost, damaged, or deleted, you can restore them. You can also browse and restore different versions of your files. For example, if you want to restore an older version of a file (even if it wasn't deleted or lost), you can browse through a timeline, select the version you want, and restore it.
File History only backs up copies of files that are in all folders and subfolders inside your account's C:\Users\<username> folder. If you have files or folders elsewhere that you want backed up, you can add them to one of these folders.
File History takes advantage of a feature built into the NTFS file system called the change journal to keep track of changes to files. Essentially, when any change is made to a file or folder on your hard disk, the change journal is updated with a description of the change and the name of the file or folder. So to determine which files need to be backed up, File History simply consults the NTFS change journal. Using the change journal is fast and efficient and won't use up a lot of system resources like running a conventional backup routine does.
Before you start using File History to back up your files, you need to first select where your backups are saved. You can select an externally connected drive, such as a USB drive, or you can save to a drive on a network. There are other choices, but these two provide the best options to help protect your files against a crash or other PC problems.
If the drive selected as the backup location becomes unavailable, such as when a USB cable is disconnected or the network goes down for maintenance, File History will continue to do its job by saving the copies to a cache on the local drive. Once the backup location becomes available again, the cached contents are transferred to that location and removed from the local drive.
This tutorial will show you how to set up and turn on File History to back up files for your account in Windows 10 and Windows 11.
Open the Control Panel (icons view), and click/tap on the File History icon.
Click/tap on Select drive in the left pane. (see screenshot below)
Select a drive you want your File History saved to, and click/tap on OK. (see screenshots below)
If the selected drive was already used by File History, then you will also need to Select an existing backup to save to.
If a network drive you want isn’t in the list of available drives, click/tap on the Show all network locations link. If the network drive you want isn’t listed there either, then click/tap on the Add a network location link, and follow the instructions on the screen.
If the selected drive was never used by File History and files backed up by File History were found on another drive, then click/tap on Yes or srepNo to move your existing files to the selected drive. (see screenshot below)
If the selected drive was previously used by File History and doesn't have your most recent files backed up on it, click/tap on Yes or No to confirm to use this drive for File History. (see screenshot below)
If you click/tap on Yes, then a new backup of your files will be created on the selected drive.
Click/tap on Exclude folders in the left pane. (see screenshot below)
Select to Add or Remove folders you want to be excluded from File History, and click/tap on Save changes when finished. (see screenshots below)
File History only backs up copies of files that are in all folders and subfolders inside your account's C:\Users\<username> folder.
Click/tap on Advanced settings in the left pane. (see screenshot below)
Perform the following steps to choose how often you want to save copies of your files, and how long to keep saved versions: (see screenshot below)
- Select how often to Save copies of files in the drop menu.
- Select how often to Keep saved versions in the drop menu.
- Click/tap on Save changes.
Turn on File History. (see screenshot below)
Click/tap on the Run now link to run File History to create copies (backup) of your files now. (see screenshot below)
You can now close the Control Panel if you like.